Be­trayed by pol­i­tics

The riot-af­fected Mus­lims of western Ut­tar Pradesh are tired of be­ing merely a vote bank

India Today - - COVER STORY - Jatin Gandhi Fol­low the writer on Twit­ter @jatin­gandhi

Driv­ing nearly 100 km from Delhi on the six-laned Na­tional High­way 1, a sharp turn to the right at Pa­ni­pat leads to Kairana. The small but smooth road runs through the fields of Sa­malkha abun­dant with green wheat stalks and vil­lage houses leading to the Ya­muna river. Away from the busy high­way, it is a pre­dom­i­nantly ru­ral set­ting in Haryana but with signs of ur­ban­i­sa­tion fast catch­ing up. Across the river, the road gives way to pot­holes that can pass off as craters. The con­trast is pal­pa­ble. The num­ber of houses on ei­ther side of the road is greater, their size smaller. Kairana is an­other ne­glected cor­ner of In­dia’s most pop­u­lous state.

Once known for the fa­mous Ki­rana gha­rana of Hin­dus­tani clas­si­cal mu­sic and long for­got­ten, it made it to the head­lines in Septem­ber last year as Mus­lim refugees from parts of Muzaf­far­na­gar and Shamli be­gan con­verg­ing here to live in refugee camps af­ter mind­less vi­o­lence and fear spread in those ar­eas. Seven out of ev­ery 10 people here are Mus­lim. The lit­er­acy rate across the river in Sa­malkha is 68 per cent. It drops to 29 per cent here. The pop­u­la­tion in the neigh­bour­ing tehsil in Haryana is about 30,000—nearly one-third of Kairana’s.

In­tezaar Khan, 21, is a broad-shoul­dered young man. In his white shirt, jeans and prayer cap, he looks the kind of youth any po­lit­i­cal party would want to fea­ture in its ad­ver­tise­ments and talk about his em­pow­er­ment. Only, Khan is not among the 29 per cent here who can sign their names. It is hard to list what his as­pi­ra­tions are in the way po­lit­i­cal par­ties talk of them. He doesn’t own a mo­bile phone or a house. Khan lives in his fa­ther’s home and in­tends to stay there even af­ter his fam­ily de­cides he should get mar­ried.

“I never both­ered to go to school. No one at home ever asked us and I never vol­un­teered. This is what works here,” he says stick­ing his thumb up and grin­ning broadly. His work as a scooter me­chanic at the road­side work­shop in Peerzadgan Mo­halla earns him Rs 1,500 a month. If it wasn’t for the mango sea­son that he spends ev­ery year trav­el­ling to gather and pluck fruits for Rs 7,000 a month in or­chards across Ut­tar Pradesh and Pun­jab, he wouldn’t have enough to eat.

Khan has voted twice—in the As­sem­bly and mu­nic­i­pal polls—but can’t re­call who he voted for and doesn’t know who his MP is. What he does know, how­ever, is that there are older and wiser men at the lo­cal mosque he must lis­ten to while mak­ing that de­ci­sion. Sami­ul­lah Khan, 38, is one of them. He is the naib at the Madrasa Ishatul Is­lam that houses the mosque. A large com­plex with an open court­yard, it turned into a refugee camp last year when Mus­lim fam­i­lies from Muzaf­far­na­gar be­gan flee­ing the vil­lages af­ter wide­spread vi­o­lence be­tween the Jats and the Mus­lims, says Sami­ul­lah. He got his de­gree in

“I never went to school. No one at home ever asked us and I never vol­un­teered. This’s what works here.” IN­TEZAAR KHAN Me­chanic

MUZZAFARNAGARSHAMLI Aboy at Madrasa Ishatul Is­lam at Kairana in Shamli Maul­viyat from Deoband and re­turned in 2001 to man­age the madrasa started by his fa­ther Niya­mat Khan in 1961. Sami­ul­lah has 12 sib­lings—three of them women. Five of the broth­ers work in the madrasa.

Even at this rel­a­tively young age, Sami­ul­lah is a com­mu­nity leader of sorts. “When Mayawati comes to power, there are no ri­ots. The Mus­lims feel safe but she ne­glects them. When Mu­layam Singh Ya­dav rules the state, he does a lot for Mus­lims but there are ri­ots. Our choices are tough,” he says. “A lot of Mus­lims have started send­ing their chil­dren to English-medium schools now. The fu­ture gen­er­a­tions will make their own choices,” he adds.

But right now there are many who rely on Sami­ul­lah and his el­der brother Barkat­ul­lah for coun­sel. Af­ter the camps were dis­banded and many re-

fused to go back to their homes, their num­ber has only in­creased. Among them, Tehseen Qureishi, 43, and his brother Mo­hammed Kalim, 38, face an un­cer­tain fu­ture. The two broth­ers moved with their mother, wives and six chil­dren from Bahudi vil­lage on the night of Septem­ber 8, 2013. Their house in Bahudi has been taken over by the neigh­bours. “There was ten­sion in the area. It was hard to sift ru­mour from fact but the fear was un­mis­tak­able,” says the el­der brother. The fam­ily has oc­cu­pied an un­fin­ished house on the out­skirts of Shamli. “We will not go back. I have al­ready ad­mit­ted one child in a school here,” says Qureishi. He was among a group of refugees who met Sa­ma­jwadi Party chief Mu­layam in Luc­know af­ter the ri­ots. Even as he pre­pares the documents to seek com­pen­sa­tion from the govern­ment, he makes no ef­fort to hide his bit­ter­ness. “The govern­ment be­trayed us by not act­ing fast enough to con­tain the vi­o­lence. The politi­cians think of us as a vote bank, not hu­man be­ings,” he says.

Pho­to­graph by VIKRAM SHARMA

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from India

© PressReader. All rights reserved.